Startups should learn from big and established companies . Dark Patterns is other thing that startups can apply to improve his businesses.
I have a challenge for you, dear readers: try to find in less than a minute the option to close the Amazon account. It is not worth looking at Google, eye: you have to find it from the page. Have you achieved it?
Probably not – it’s my case – but it’s because Amazon makes it very difficult. Like many other companies, Amazon makes use of the so-called “dark patterns”, web design techniques that force the user to do things they do not want, or not to do things that the company does not want you to do.
Closing an account on Amazon is surprisingly difficult (and not just up to you)
Theoretically one would expect to find that option through the “My account” link. Once there we can see orders, addresses, payment methods and other options, but none of the many links there appear to be able to delete our account. It just is not there.
In fact, in order to do so, we have to go to the bottom of the page, click on “Help” and, among all the options, go to “Do you need more help?” to then select the link “Contact us”. In the next screen there are four tabs, and if we go to the last one, titled “Prime and others” we will be a little closer to our goal.
It is there where in the drop-down “Tell us more about your problem”, which does not give us a clear option to delete the account either. We will have to go to “Update your account information” to find a second drop-down in which the option “Close my account” finally appears.
Before doing so, yes, we will have to chat with someone from the Amazon template who will try to convince us not to do so. We can not delete the account by ourselves, Amazon has to do it for us.
Dark patterns, traps everywhere
This is an obvious example of those “dark patterns” that make it extremely complex to access an option that the user should have at their disposal but which, yes, harms the company that gives us the service. There are usability experts like Harry Brignull who classify this as a “cockroach motel”: a design that makes it easy to create an account or access a service, but difficult to close it or leave it.
This is the end of a very long post with offers from Springfield. It’s just an example, because all the companies that send advertisements act like that. In fact Springfield does not do so badly: the links to unsubscribe or modify our data are in bold and underlined, although to find them you have to have a hawk view and go all the way down those emails.
Since then this expert has been trying to educate users about this type of techniques that try to make it difficult for users to “get out of the fold”. We have a good example in those promotional emails that reach us and that often do not interest us. It is mandatory that these companies offer an option to unsubscribe, but often that option is in pale colors or very similar to the rest of the “small print”, not very prominent for users to have difficulty finding it.
The same goes for all those services and applications that try to confuse the user to do things that he does not really want to do. In the video you can see an example with the mobile game Two Dots, in which to go forward in the menus always use buttons with white text and green background.
Everything is perfect until we lose a level and the color scheme changes: the first button we see on the screen takes us directly to an in-app purchase, within the application, and allows us to “buy movements” to be able to solve that screen .
This button is also made with white text and green background: it is easy to confuse and tighten it involuntarily, almost reflecting, trusting that it is part of a harmless interface that actually has a trick.
Booking or Ryanair are two glaring examples, but there are many more
The examples are multiple, and for example in online booking sites such as Booking (there are many other cases) everything possible is done to convince users to book a certain hotel because there are few places left, there are many people watching that same offer or they are barely a few minutes for that price to expire.
Ma’am, they’re taken out of my hands.
If you have purchased an airline ticket with Ryanair -very criticized by many of these techniques- you will have also detected those types of techniques in which the price of the ticket, which is usually attractive, is increasing with all kinds of additional options of which It is often difficult to escape.
The Ryanair website is full of small traps. I have searched for a fake flight from Madrid to London and after selecting the round trip the first thing that appears is a FlexiPlus rate that I have to “Add to the trip” to be able to “Continue”. That last button appears obscured and can not be used until I select that extra rate. How not to choose it? Easy: you choose it and, before clicking “Continue”, you deactivate it again. And this is only the first obstacle that websites like this put us at the time of completing the purchase.
We must put all five senses to take advantage of the offer we saw in origin, and the most curious thing here is that companies accuse each other of this type of techniques: Ryanair complained in 2014 how eDreams showed prices “artificially low”.
Finding ideas to apply using Dark Patterns
The hashtag #darkpattern serves to denounce these cases for example on Twitter – part of the responsibility belongs to the user, who must be alert to this type of tricks, but perhaps it should be regulated in a segment in the one that the web design counts on powerful tools that play with the psychology and the form to work that has our brain to take advantage of certain advantage.
Also published on Medium.